Fans hope school can stage another amazing comeback -- keeping Jones
The news that University of Hawaii football coach June Jones might resign after the team's most successful season drew disappointment yesterday from most football fans, who urged university officials to redouble efforts to get him to stay.
Thousands of fans turned up for a team autograph session at Kahala Mall yesterday afternoon while Jones was interviewing for a job at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Some fans said it would be a huge loss to the entire state, and others sharply criticized UH athletic director Herman Frazier for not making an offer sooner.
Many fans pointed to Jones' record since coming to university nine years ago, when the football team was 0-12. This year he brought the team to a 12-0 regular-season record and its first major bowl game.
"It's a complete turnaround," said Ben Yee, vice president of the UH football booster club Na Koa.
Mike Kim, 49, of Punchbowl, who traveled with thousands of other Hawaii fans to New Orleans to watch the Sugar Bowl, said he believes the university administration made a mistake by waiting so long to make an offer as Jones' five-year contract ends.
"It's the worst thing that could happen to UH," Kim said at the Kahala Mall event. "He built it up so big -- we're at the peak of our program -- and to let it fall is an absolute travesty."
Others believe that Jones' decision to search for another job is no longer about money -- UH officials offered $1.5 million a year to counter SMU's offer of at least $1.7 million -- but with his frustration over concerns that have not been met, including facility upgrades and higher pay for his assistant coaches.
"I'm still hopeful that they can work something out," said Eric Yeaman, 40, of Kahala. "The school should step up to their commitment to the UH football team and the athletic department."
Jones traveled to Dallas over the weekend to interview with SMU officials but had not signed a contract as of last night, and Jones' agent Leigh Steinberg said Jones "had an emotional day," reading e-mails from fans.
Some fans said they hope Jones is prolonging the contract signing and using it as leverage to get UH officials to agree to 19 points he told friends that UH administrators have not dealt with yet. Yesterday, UH President David McClain made a new proposal that addresses many of those points, Steinberg said.
"If he leaves, the university will have problems other than finding another head coach," said Bill Kaneko, 47, of Kaimuki. "He took the team to another level this year. If UH wants to stay at this level, there has to be some changes. June Jones has made that loud and clear through his (possible) resignation."
Some fans were to hold a grass-roots rally at 11 a.m. today in front of Bachman Hall, where the UH president's office is located, to encourage administrators to renew Jones' contract and provide sufficient funding to improve the athletic department.
"People like June Jones do not come around every day," said Kelley Oshiro, 47, of Ewa Beach, who is holding the rally. "It may be too late for June Jones, but if he leaves, there still needs to be change."